Jim Randolph

Jan 082018
 

Reader Garry D. Meador writes: “I am a recent subscriber to Wood News and have a hard time waiting for the next issue. So much info presented in so many different ways. Love it. This may have been done in the past but I would like to see a poll of what woodworkers did in their former life. I was a high school band director that grew up working with Dad in wood. My first thoughts on retirement were to get really involved in wood, which I did. I see lots of different retirees that seem to be unrelated to woodworking but realize that everyone has an opportunity to return or relearn the joy of wood.”

Garry, thanks for the great suggestion. As we reflect on the end of last year and this year’s New Year’s resolutions, the time couldn’t be better to think about this exact topic.

Many woodworkers are retired. Some dream of being retired. Some are living the dream by working in wood as their vocation.

There is no pigeonholing woodworkers; our backgrounds are extremely varied. Just watching the final episode of The Highland Woodworker and seeing Charles Brock’s extensive library of interviewees shows a bit of the diversity that exists in our pastime.

Many of us worked wood with family as youngsters. Some took shop classes in junior high and high school. Home construction backgrounds are over-represented. While blue-collar foundations abound, plenty of doctors, lawyers and clergy like to express our creativity in wood.

Wood News Online has an international subscriber base. The world of woodworking is so much bigger than our United States. We get emails, questions and online comments from all over the globe. Below you’ll find a broad list of occupations, but the real results of this poll will be seen in your comments. Stories about how you came to woodworking will be most appreciated if you would like to share them in the comments below.

Jan 052018
 

No Southern-fried Southern boy wants to be called a Yankee, but we share the characteristics of shrewdness and thrift. Thus, each month we include a money-saving tip. It’s OK if you call me “cheap.

That genius philosopher, Plato, was the smart guy who said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

On the eve of New Year’s Eve, I was painting some corner molding and found it really difficult to cut in because where it met the wall, it had a rounded profile. I needed a guard, but didn’t have a commercial one. I could have used a putty knife, but the widest knife I had was only 5″, which would have been tedious.

I remembered having one years ago that looked for all the world like a 12″ Venetian blind, but, if I still own that, I couldn’t find it.

What I could find, though, was… a Venetian blind.

When we were building our house, 22 years ago, we splurged a little on blinds for the garage windows so they would present a uniform appearance from the outside. Of course, I’m much too cheap to start cutting up blinds, but I remembered that they have two little valance slats at the top. No one would care if I borrowed one slat for a few days, would they?

See the two little slats at the top that make a valance? I borrowed one, temporarily.

Surprise! It worked so well that I forgot all about going to the store to buy a guide. The bonus is that the slat is almost 4 feet long, so it can be put in place and left there until a long piece of molding is painted.

Now I just have to make sure nothing happens to it before I get it back on the window!

This little Venetian blind slat saved the day on this painting job.


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Jan 042018
 

Welcome to “Tips From Sticks-In-The-Mud Woodshop.” I am a hobbyist who loves woodworking and writing for those who also love the craft. I have found some ways to accomplish tasks in the workshop that might be helpful to you, and I enjoy hearing your own problem-solving ideasPlease share them in the COMMENTS section of each tip.  If, in the process, I can also make you laugh, I have achieved 100% of my goals.

One of my writing heroes is the late James J. Kilpatrick. He wrote a syndicated newspaper column, The Writer’s Art, and published a book by the same name. Famously, he had three pieces of advice for writers new and old, “Read your copy. Read your copy. Read your copy.” Simply reading one’s written material allows us to catch problems with flow, syntax, grammar, and spelling.

Today, I’m thinking of a corollary to Mr. Kilpatrick’s admonition because of an event that occurred yesterday. That warning is, “Wear your safety glasses. Wear your safety glasses. Wear your safety glasses.”

Regret is a terrible thing. The crazy part of this story is that, as I was walking across the shop to perform the function that led to my injury, I was thinking, “I’m going to be working over my head. I should protect myself, especially my eyes.”

I was putting up some new hatches in the place I store empty Festool Systainers and Festool hand tools not currently in use.  In the process of making these hatches, screws for the hatch side of the hinge are invariably too long and have to be shortened. Now, I could do that in some really neat, fancy fashion, but my want is to get it over with quickly, so I use a 4″ angle grinder. There is about a quarter of an inch of screw sticking through, and it takes about three seconds to grind it off. The process, however, creates a hot little remnant that sometimes burns right into the wood and sometimes goes flying who-knows-where. That’s typically not a problem when working on a benchtop, but, above your head? That’s a different matter!

The craziest part of all was, in my advance thinking, I even thought, “Man, if that slag got on my cornea (clear part of the eye), it would be curtains for that eye.”

But, I was in a big hurry, as I usually am, and I had reading glasses on and, having planned ahead, I thought I’d be really careful.

Yeah, right.

I squinted so hard that the upper lids were pressed against my face just below my right eye, causing the hot screw tip to burn me in three places.

There were 4 screws to grind down, and the first three went flawlessly. Few things are more dangerous to one’s behavior than success, and the success on those three screws may have led to some complacency. Whatever the cause, I got to the fourth one and ZING! Out flies the hot piece of metal, and it’s headed straight for my right eye. Thank God in Heaven for the autonomic nervous system, the complex network that controls all of the body’s functions that we don’t think about: breathing, heartbeat, and our bodies’ functions in the face of danger. Before I even knew there was a problem, my eyelid had slammed shut, leading to the three burn marks you see, which represent folds in the heavily-squinted eyelid.

I went upstairs to get a good look in the bathroom mirror, praying all the way, and was impressed with how little damage was present. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much pain, either. And, thankfully, there was no damage to the actual eyeball.

Clearly, it could have been much worse. And, much more painful.

There was a little more grinding to do, so I reached for the nearby safety glasses, this time, and finished the job.

Right after I said a prayer of thanks for my deliverance.

Happy New Year!

The stupidest part? Safety glasses were right next to the table saw, just two steps away.

New hatches, not yet assigned Festool equipment.

Now, if I’d been really smart, I would have put on my face shield for full protection!


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Dec 052017
 

 

I love surprises.

My sweet wife, Brenda, hates surprises.

We agree on one surprise area, though, and that is neither of us likes gift surprises. We know what we like, we know what we want, and we don’t see the point of getting something we can’t use or don’t like.

For example, one family who brings their two Dachshunds to us has a delightful jewelry store. A few years ago they ran an ad for a ring and, when Brenda saw it, she said she just had to have it.

Obviously, I got it. I love her too much to say no.

Recently, the wife of the couple was in the clinic with her little girl Dachshund. At the end of the visit she said, “Come get Brenda some nice earrings to go with that ring.”

That night, Brenda and I were talking about Christmas presents, and I mentioned what the lady said. “That wouldn’t interest me,” Brenda opined, “because I want something I can hold out in front of me and see, like a bracelet.”

See what I mean? Why spend money in jewelry-sized aliquots of dough, just to have it be something she doesn’t like?

Brenda quit buying me surprise gifts when she discovered that I was secretly returning them for credit and getting something else. I mean, what if your wife bought you a left-tilt table saw when you wanted a right-tilt? You’d never be completely happy with it.

If you’re going to spend $3000 on a tablesaw, you might as well get what you actually want, and forget the surprise component.

To me, the principle is the same whether you’re spending $14 on a premium paint brush or $500 on a professional Earlex 3-stage Spray System. I don’t want a one-stage sprayer, and, if I get one, I’m going to trade it in toward the unit I actually want, even if I have to save up and do without until I can afford it.

Now, I’m off to print out the photo of the 14″ Rikon Bandsaw and leave it lying around.

Did you know Highland Woodworking has a Wish List feature? Just click here to access the Help page  that will walk you through the registration process. You can also print your Wish List, making it easy for your sweetie to order exactly what you want.

Dec 042017
 

No Southern-fried Southern boy wants to be called a Yankee, but we share the characteristics of shrewdness and thrift. Thus, each month we include a money-saving tip. It’s OK if you call me “cheap.

If you’re really cheap, like me, you don’t like paying for internet access when you’re away from home or work. When I’m traveling, I usually write in the airport and write on the plane. There’s not much else to do and I’m not bothered by distractions.

However, sometimes I’m in the mood for being entertained by some good old woodworking reading. Now, that’s easy if the terminal has free WiFi, but you’re not going to get free WiFi once you board the plane, unless you’re in first class, in which case, you ain’t cheap!

To get around that, I’ll open a browser, and enough browser pages to fill my flight time with reading.

Key point: You can still power down your device if you put it in “Sleep Mode,” because, when you restore power, everything will load just like you left it. If you simply shut down the entire computer, you’ll lose everything you loaded.

It may take a few minutes to load enough pages for a two-hour flight, but it’s free!


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Dec 012017
 

Welcome to “Tips From Sticks-In-The-Mud Woodshop.” I am a hobbyist who loves woodworking and writing for those who also love the craft. I have found some ways to accomplish tasks in the workshop that might be helpful to you, and I enjoy hearing your own problem-solving ideasPlease share them in the COMMENTS section of each tip.  If, in the process, I can also make you laugh, I have achieved 100% of my goals.

Why do we pour finish from the can into a separate container? Because we know that dipping our brush into the original container, applying finish to our project, then dipping into the container again will carry debris from the project surface back into the can.

It’s a practice that can lead to some waste if you have finish left in the secondary container, but it’s better than ruining an entire quart or gallon of expensive varnish or paint. To say nothing of ruining the surface of your project!

Still, what if, when transferring finish, you introduce dirt or dust? That really defeats the purpose of the extra step, doesn’t it? There are some things you can do.

For example, when you finish cleaning your funnels, don’t just toss them onto a shelf to collect dust. Small and medium funnels will fit into zipper-locking bags and be fresh and clean the next time you need them.

Wider and longer funnels may require a different approach. For example, with my long, black funnel I put a used paper towel over the top, secured by a rubber band. The little end is sealed with a portion of a sheet of paper towel forced into the opening.

No dust is getting into this baby. Even though I don’t have a Ziploc bag large enough for it, the funnel is effectively protected by a used paper towel on top and a smidgen of a towel blocking the exit.

And, what of the container decanted into? Leave that lying around and it’s going to be full of dust, cobwebs and insects. Maybe even worse.

For that reason, I save only containers with lids. They can be stored indefinitely and still be clean inside.

I try to save every jar I can, especially if the lid is rust free. After they leave the dishwasher, I turn them upside down on this ventilated shelving for a couple of weeks to allow them to dry completely. Then, the lid goes on and they wait for their opportunity to serve.


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Nov 032017
 

 

Do you use the built-in ruler on your saw fences?

Many people don’t trust them, especially when they need a super-accurate cut.

Whether on the table saw or miter saw, some use a rule to measure the distance between the blade and fence.

And, certainly, that’s the way to get the best-fitting parts.

I spent a lot of time calibrating the scale on my Delta cabinet saw, and it’s quite accurate, but it’s set for my Forrest Woodworker II. If I use my thin-kerf, coarse-tooth Craftsman blade, that measurement changes. I use the scale only when the cut doesn’t have to be perfect.

It takes little time to make that measurement, and, if you’re batching parts, you need measure only once.

It would take a lot longer to make all those pieces a second time.

I’ve fine-tuned the scale on the Delta cabinet saw to its best accuracy, but I still measure the distance between the blade and the fence when cutting furniture parts.

I put a scale on my Norm Abram miter saw stand, but I don’t use it. The plans included instructions for a movable stop, but, when I got through with the project I was out of time and never got around to making that clamp.

I would use the stop, if I ever got around to making one, because I perform a lot of repetitive cuts. However, I still measure the distance between the blade and the stop, despite the fact that I’ve checked the tape repeatedly, and it’s always right on the money.

The tape on this Norm Abram-style miter stand is very, very accurate, but I still don’t use it.

One day I’ll make Norm’s movable stop, but, in the meantime, this setup works quite well.

And, what do you use to measure? I’m not trusting of tapes when perfection is on the line. After all, a movable hook is the antithesis of accuracy. I will use a tape and start at the 1″ mark sometimes, but that doesn’t work when measuring against a blade or fence.

That’s when I drag out my father’s old folding rule. There’s no disputing the meaningfulness of a measurement from one of those!

I often keep a folding rule in my pocket when building furniture. Their accuracy is without peer. The bottom four were Daddy’s. He’s 95 and still very spry, but no longer needs his measuring tools. We are blessed.